I've seen the mercy of the Lord as my little fourth graders carried out a very touching, sweet service project yesterday.
The timing of Kaye's homegoing left me a bit panicked, after the event itself had panicked me enough. Each year since I've been where I am now ( 7 years), I've done a big service project for our veterans with my fourth grade.
All the students in the building pre-school through 6th write a thankful essay to a veteran and one from each grade is chosen to read their essay at our Veteran's Day Breakfast. My students, with help from the music teacher, learn patriotic songs, and I teach them to sign. Then the afternoon before, my kids make egg casseroles and fruit salad. I add cinnamon rolls and biscuits, sausage and gravy. My students decorate the gym, serve the veterans, sit with them to enjoy the bountiful breakfast and listen to whatever stories they might tell. We then call in the other students and present the program.
My students sing a part of each branch's song as each group of veterans march in. Then our scouts present the Colors, a student leads prayers. Each year we change up the songs. They did Battle Hymn of the Republic first, essays, a sweet reading about how awful it is to watch someone leave and how wonderful when a soldier walks back into your arms, followed by a student on snare, then recorders with piano, followed by voices to When Johnny Comes Marching Home (with our little three and four year olds punching the air and yelling Who-wa, Who-wa), a couple more essays and the kids finish up with In God We Still Trust, retire the Colors, the vets march out to the cadence. Students are then free to visit the veterans and see the memorabilia brought in and talk to them about their military career.
I am not exactly sure why I started this. Having a son in the military and wanting to make people aware surely brought it center stage in my mind. Also, my children come to me nearly illiterate historically and geographically speaking, and I want so much for them then cramming boring facts down their throat, so I try to tie our learning to something very real. Our whole focus the last weeks of October and first of November is about our government, elections and military. This is way to put a face to the fact. Also, anytime I can pull them into to hands-on service, I do. The first year I did this it was challenging to get them write a decent essay to a veteran, as they had such little background knowledge. My kids this year have now been through this program over and over again through the years and when you ask them to write their essays, it is like racehorses at the gate just prancing to be turned out. For the program, they cook, serve, sing, sign and read with such enthusiasm. It is a blessing to see.
Even more are the men and women veterans and their response-precious.
If things had taken the accustomed route, Kaye's services would have been on Thursday or Friday. I really don't know what I would have done. After 7 years, I'm on auto-pilot with this program, but no other teacher can sign, or is much accustomed to cooking for big groups. I would have felt awful to have left my students. Well, it turns out I didn't have to. Ol' Henry's birthday is on Veteran's Day and Old Mother Hubbard didn't want his Granny's funeral to be on this birthday. So I was able to practice with my class and oversee the food preparations on Thursday and carry on through Friday's program with the help of a few great moms and teachers.
I shared with the kids that it would be a very emotional program for me. Not only was I so, so sad about my sister, but my son would be there. I assured them that I was fine and not to worry if I got really teary. Thank God, it wasn't nearly as hard as I feared. When 1st Lt. started the Army branch out, I nearly lost it and just had to look away while he marched in, then I was able to continue.
When these grown men come to me in tears and share their joy at having been so honored, I am grateful I persevered. It is a worthy cause indeed.